Saturday, February 21, 2015

More Love in the Story

A different kind of love story has been developing in my foster care journey. I have connected with a few awesome foster Moms from my agency and, man, I love these girls.

Foster Care is hard. We always have drama. My life is this never ending saga of heartache and injustice and acronyms that are a burden to my friends and family. They don't get it, and they want to protect me, so they demonize the birth family or the system or they stroke my ego to try and make everything better. Foster Moms are a different breed. They know the acronyms. They drink in the dramatic saga like a beloved TV series and recall all the details so you can pick up your story where it left off. They aren't weighed down by the crazy. They float on it just like I do. They don't make me feel less crazy, but they make me feel like I'm not alone.

We each have 3 kids around the same age, so they get together and play. It's been good for the kids to be surrounded with other foster families who function like their own. Our kids all have big behaviors. It's hard not to get your feelings hurt even when all your training and knowledge tell you their behavior is not personal. They did not go to school today with the intention of making you look like a bad Mom who can't control her child, but that's what it feels like when the school counselor calls you for the 3rd time this week and wants to speak to you about your son. So when you're having a "What was I thinking?! I can't do this! I don't even like kids!" kind of day, to call someone who gets it and doesn't hold it against you is the greatest gift. They laugh (a real laugh, not a nervous polite laugh) when I tell them that I bribed Baby 4's teacher with a Starbucks gift card to not call me to pick him up early for disruptive behavior, then actually bought and delivered said gift card. They tell me my son has been fine while playing at their house (because they dealt with whatever happened so it is fine). They have their own stories to share and know it's nice to have someone else deal with the petty stuff once in a while.

I've spent many evenings whispering fears and anxieties to them over paint and canvas, essential oils and wine, and colored pencils and mandalas. I've driven down city streets with them looking for my child's parent because I had a bad feeling and needed to make sure they were OK. We go to meditation classes and comedy shows and borderline inappropriate movies together (JLo's latest, anyone?).

When their kids have a good day, I rejoice with them. When court sucks and all the energy they've put into keeping it together still isn't enough, I sit there and make sure if it's going to break, it breaks on both of us. I befriend the pregnant Mom of one of their kids, and suggest socially appropriate baby names to her. I bitch about caseworkers and bring Starbucks to trainings. They surprise me with dinner at my doorstep when Brandon's away for the weekend and I won't be able to shower until he gets back because Baby Girl's nurse called in sick so I have to be by her side. They teach me how to stand up for myself with the team working with my kids, and they show me how to be be brave in loving my kids' parents.

I've known that you can't do foster care in a bubble. The difference in doing life with these ladies instead of on our own is remarkable. I'm one of those stay at home Moms who meets and talks to people all the time and always say, "Yeah!! Let's get together! For coffee? I love coffee!" knowing full well I never even saved their number in my phone. I'm really glad I didn't miss out with them.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 It's Biblical, dear reader, go make some friends. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Foster care has been a lot like purgatory. We opened our home after Baby Girl came back from her big heart surgery in Boston. We've received a grand total of no calls in the month we've been open. I have never gotten no calls at all. At least some calls for placements we say no to. Respite 13 came back last week for the weekend. Baby 9's case has gone nowhere. The rest of this post is what nowhere looks like:

In September, reunification was the immediate goal for Baby 9's case. We were going to go back to court in November to start overnight and extended weekend visits. Then the plan was for Baby 9 to return home right around Christmas- in time for a trip Mom had planned to visit family out of state. It was important to her that 9 go with her and the judge seemed fine making that happen.

Then everything imploded in October. We went from 3 monitored visits per week to nothing. Mom stopped talking about reunification and started talking about a relative resource. She stopped working with CPS all together and became consumed with her own survival.

In November we went back to court and started bi-monthly jail visits. The county started writing the petition to terminate parental rights (TPR). I had a face to face with Relative Resource, She was honest about her own desire to raise Baby 9 as well as her hesitation about taking her from the only home she has known. Ultimately, she chose not to pursue custody of Baby 9 in exchange for our explicit agreement to remain very involved with their family throughout our lives.

In December, foster care was pretty quiet. 2 visits were scheduled, but only 1 happened. The caseworker talked with Mom about surrender. She absolutely was not going to do that.

In January we had court. Mom did not come. She is still not cooperating with the county. TPR is done and the plan is to have it filed. If  Mom asks for visits, they will be 1 hr supervised at the county building. Depending on the day, I get 20 calls in a row from Mom or silence. She refuses to have contact with the caseworker.

Now in February, There have been no visits still. I'm still taking multiple calls and texts from Mom, but all I can say is, "Baby 9 is good. Call the caseworker and get your visits." No one knows why the TPR hasn't been filed. No one knows anything.

So we wait.

A few things can happen here:

The TPR can get filed and we go to trial to have Baby 9 freed for adoption. This will take a minimum 6 court appearances. After which, Mom has the right to appeal the decision twice before we can move forward to adopt. Just a trial will take about a year. A trial and 2 appeals would be 2 years.

The TPR can get filed and the judge orders a suspended judgement. This is what happened with Baby 4's Dad. The judge decides that perhaps another year to work the plan is all that is needed for reunification to happen. If Mom decided tomorrow to get herself together, I could see this being an option. So nothing would happen for a year. Mom would either work the plan and 9 would be returned to her within the year, or Mom does not resolve the safety issues keeping Baby 9 in care then there would be a minimum 4 court appearances before 9 would be freed for adoption. So about 1.5 years until 9 is freed.

The TPR can get filed and Mom decides not to go to trial, but instead agrees to a conditional surrender. This could possibly be done in one court appearance, but most likely 2. Baby 9 would be freed for adoption immediately and could be adopted by the end of this year.

Mom finds a resource who is willing to take custody of Baby 9. This would take a minimum 2 court appearances and probably wouldn't go anywhere. The county is not going to support moving 9 to a person that has been uninvolved for the past 20 months. It would, however, slow any of the above processes down by 3-ish months.

I really am hoping for a conditional surrender. That gives Mom legal rights to post adoption visits with Baby 9. I am going to keep her involved either way, but having a surrender gives her the right to take us to court if her visits drop off. That is something that I would want if I were Mom. It also saves Mom from having a termination on her record, which can hinder future jobs. A surrender is a choice- just like a pregnant woman making an adoption plan for her unborn baby. She also doesn't have to sit through multiple court appearances where all her dirty laundry is aired in open court. It speeds up the process significantly which helps all of us. A surrender also gives me a legal document to fall back on in case things get sticky with post adoption contact. It won't be just me saying, "We need to do this visit on a different date." if Mom is clearly intoxicated. It's the surrender that we both signed saying a visit will end if the parent is under the influence.

I know Mom doesn't want to look like she's giving up or doesn't want Baby 9. She does want her. It's just not safe. I don't know what she'll do. So we wait.